Eric Fair is a former interrogator who worked at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 for the private security firm CACI. Fair has written a book, "Consequence: A Memoir," about the torture he allegedly witnessed and participated in. Fair recalled some of his experiences during an interview with Democracy Now! on April 7 (video below).
Fair told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman how he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995 and became an Arabic linguist. In 2000, he took an honorable discharge and then worked as a cop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Fair said he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq at the time and wanted to be a part of the war. The U.S. military would not take him back because of a heart condition he had developed, but CACI didn't require him to pass a health exam.
According to Fair, Americans didn't line up at recruiting stations (despite high support for the war), there was no national call to join the armed forces, and the U.S. Army didn't have time to train interrogators, so it hired private security firms to fill these positions and others.
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However, Fair said it was a disaster from the beginning:
Many of us were former police officers, law enforcement officers -- we had been in prisons. But Abu Ghraib, they -- we arrived, they dropped us off, and they left. And they housed us in cells at the time.
And there was something in the neighborhood of probably less than 500 American personnel, whether they be troops or contractors. There were thousands of Iraqi prisoners. And so, the idea that we were going to interrogate these people and gain any kind of useful intelligence was almost immediately impossible.
... And many, many of the prisoners, the Iraqi prisoners, were naked. Whether they were being forced to stand by being handcuffed to their cell doors or whether they were just sort of being paraded around on the floor, whether they were moving from place to place, most -- most of the prisoners either were naked or down to their underwear.
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Fair added that in 2004 "every interrogation, on some level, we had to at least address the issue of whether or not this prisoner knew anything about chemical weapons. ... Now, it was clear very quickly that many of the prisoners did not have that kind of information."
Fair then read an excerpt from his book, which details how interrogators used a torture device called the Palestinian chair:
We pass by the interrogation room where Tyner has been working on Raad Hussein. We haven’t heard Tyner scream or throw anything today. The door to the room, a flimsy sheet of plywood, has blown open in the hot desert wind. Inside, Raad Hussein is bound to the Palestinian chair. His hands are tied to his ankles.
The chair forces him to lean forward in a crouch, forcing all of his weight onto his thighs. It’s as if he’s been trapped in the act of kneeling down to pray, his knees frozen just above the floor, his arms pinned below his legs. He is blindfolded. His head has collapsed into his chest. He wheezes and gasps for air. There is a pool of urine at his feet. He moans: too tired to cry, but in too much pain to remain silent.
Henson comes out into the hallway and walks past the room. He covers the side of his face as he walks by and says, 'I don't even want to know.’
I am silent. This is a sin. I know it as soon as I see it. There will be no atonement for it. In the coming years, I won’t have the audacity to seek it. Witnessing a man being tortured in the Palestinian chair requires the witness to either seek justice or cover his face. Like Henson in Fallujah, I’ll spend the rest of my life covering my face.
Fair said he did not use the Palestinian chair on people but did admit to using sleep deprivation (to strip away people's hope) until he quit one month later. He also described confined spaces torture and how he once tried the Palestinian chair himself and barely lasted one minute.
Fair told NPR in a separate interview on April 4:
My behavior towards Iraqi detainees did not meet the standard that I had simply been raised on. It was not the way that I should've behaved. There are long discussions about why those things happened ... and how difficult it was to sort of break from those expectations of being a soldier, but none of that matters. I made horrible mistakes ... I have a responsibility to confess those things openly.